When I applied for my very first job nearly 30 years ago it was an incredibly simple process. I called the number on the job advert and had an interview booked for that week.
The interview itself was straight forward. I was asked: What qualifications I had (and what qualifications am I in the process of attaining), What experience do I have (I had none!), What were my goals, What were my interests and finally, When can I start.
That was it. Total time investment 30 minutes.
Since then though the recruitment process has gotten steadily more and more complex – even for entry level roles!
Now when you are on the job hunt you need to have your CV, your cover letter, your personal statement, your S.T.A.R examples, your professional references, your personal references, your social media presence – all of these things.
And if you are applying ‘wide’ (i.e. not to any specific employer) you’ve got to learn all the different frameworks, values, culture fit or whatever the organisation has decided to call it.
Maybe I’m old but it does all seem exhausting.
But that is how things are in the job market today. The only thing we can do is research the organisation we want to work for; learn how they operate, learn what it is they are looking for and then put our best foot forward.
If you are reading this then you are interested in applying for a job with the Civil Service – either that or you are lost!
The Civil Service – like I touched on before – have their own way of evaluating candidates. What they use to make recruitment decisions is something they have named ‘Success Profiles’ and a large part of these profiles are called the ‘Civil Service Behaviours’. These are behaviours which all applicants will be assessed against.
And it is these Behaviours that we are going to look into today.
What are ‘Success Profiles’?
Before we dive into the Behaviours it’s probably best to look at the wider context. The Civil Service moved away from pure competency based processes and into these “Success Profiles” just a few years ago. Let’s hear why straight from the horse’s mouth:
The Success Profile Framework moves recruitment away from using a purely competency based system of assessment. It introduces a more flexible framework which assesses candidates against a range of elements using a variety of selection methods. This will give the best possible chance of finding the right person for the job, driving up performance and improving diversity and inclusivity.https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/717279/Success_Profiles_Overview_2018.pdf
So what makes up this new “Success Profile”?
Success Profiles as you can see from the above image encompass 5 key areas that all candidates are judged against:
Ability – Probably somewhat obvious. Are you capable of doing what the job asks you to do? This is usually a binary measurement. Straight up or down, yes or no, can the candidate do the job or not.
Experience – Have you done this before or are you new to the job? This particular element will vary in how it is assessed based on the role. The higher up the role the more experience they will expect you to have. Fresh graduates – not so much experience required, Senior Project Managers – lots of experience required.
Technical – Certain fields will require some level of technical knowledge. How are you going to prove that you possess this knowledge? Do you hold industry standard qualifications? can you evidence your technical knowledge through your career history? If called upon in an interview can you explain in depth your field and the field the job relates to? (this element is particularly relevant in Science fields, Engineering, IT Development)
Strengths – This element is based on the theory that doing something regularly means we are better at it. So be prepared for questions like “What does your average day look like”, “What do you like to do in your spare time”, things like that. Your interviewer is trying to see how often you perform certain activities to see if you have “Strengths” as they define it. Learn more about Civil Service Strengths
Behaviours – What we are here to discuss. I always compare Behaviours to personality traits. They look at the type of person we are and how that drives the actions we take, and whether we have the specific traits required for the job. There are 9 behaviours that are assessed within the framework. But don’t worry unless you are going for a very very senior role you are unlikely to be assessed on more than 3 or 4.
So let’s take a deeper dive into behaviours.
What are ‘Behaviours’?
For this let’s hear straight from the Civil Service’s own guidance again:
Behaviours are the actions and activities that people do which result in effective performance in a job. The Civil Service has defined a set of behaviours that, when demonstrated, are associated with job success. Civil Service Behaviours are specific to the grade level of the job role. It is important to remember that recruiting managers will choose a selection of behaviours which are best suited to the specific job role. You will not be asked to demonstrate all Civil Service Behaviours for one role. The examples of the behaviours are designed to give an overview of what is expected of individuals at each level. There is no expectation that all individuals will need to demonstrate every part of each example to be successful.https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/717275/CS_Behaviours_2018.pdf
How are Behaviours assessed
You can – and will – be assessed against the behaviours during every interaction you have with the organisation. You will however only be assessed against the behaviours that are outlined within the job advert. So always make sure you are fully aware which behaviours are relevant for the job you are applying for.
Here are the various ways you might be assessed:
I would call out that in all likelihood you will not take part in all of these activities. The most common activities you will see during your recruitment are: The application form (including a personal statement and multiple 250 word behaviour example statements), CV (redacted of personal information), the interview and any judgement tests you are required to take during the application.
Behaviour 250 Word Statement Example
Behaviour Interview Question Examples
Don’t expect any simple one word answer questions when you go into a behaviours interview. The questions you will get will all be designed to allow you to elaborate on your experience. A lot of “Tell me about a time…”, “Have you ever…”, “What happened when you…” type questions. Below are some of the questions that I have personally seen in be asked in a Civil Service Interview.
Remember each behaviour will have its own set of questions; the key is to practice as many questions as you can for the specific behaviours you are being assessed on (which you should know from the job advert)
Tell me about a time when you have challenged the usual way of doing things to make things easier for the customer or for fellow colleagues? (Changing and Improving Example)
Tell me about a time when you needed to communicate bad news to a colleague or stakeholder? (Communicating and Influencing Example)
Tell me about a time when you were late delivering a piece of work? (Delivering at Pace Example)
Tell me about a new skill or qualification you have learned over the last 6 months? How did you choose that particular skill/qualification to learn and how have you used your new knowledge? (Developing Self and Others Example)
Tell me about a time when you had to convince others to put in ‘the hard work’? (Leadership Example)
Tell me about a time when your organisation didn’t go with the decision you made? Did you agree with their ultimate decision and what did you learn from this experience? (Making Effective Decisions Example)
How do you identify customer needs when the customer is unsure on what it is they require? (Managing a Quality Service Example)
How do you ensure that you have considered all stakeholder needs when undertaking a new initiative? (Seeing the Big Picture Example)
How would you deal with a senior member of staff who wants a junior colleague to shadow you, when you know that doing so will slow down your work? (Working Together Example)
Behaviour Application Tips
We’ve talked a lot about the framework and about the process. We’ve looked at personal statement examples and we’ve had a look at some example interview questions. But what else can you do to put yourself ahead of all the other candidates:
1 – Use the S.T.A.R. system
2 – Remember that the recruitment team does not know you. You are a stranger to them. When you are telling them about your experience make sure you give a full account of your activities and that you provide any context that is required.
3 – Run your statements through a spell AND grammar check. Normally I am fine with spelling or grammar mistakes in a professional setting (I am sure there are a number on this site), but when applying for jobs there can be no errors. You will not believe the number of applications that are sent in where the applicant is touting an “Excellent Attention to Detail” and their statements are riddled with errors.
4 – Continuous Improvement is the hot item at the moment. It’s not enough to just be good at the job. You need to evidence that you are always looking for ways to improve. Improve yourself, improve the processes you work, improve your team and improve the organisation as a whole.
The 9 Behaviours
Here are the 9 Civil Service Behaviours along with a quick description of each. There is a lot more information to tell about each behaviour so if you need to know more about any specific behaviour then click the link within the description for a full breakdown of that behaviour.
Seeing the Big Picture – Assessing the candidates ability to understand how their actions impact other people/teams and the wider organisation. Learn more…
Making Effective Decisions – Assessing the candidates ability to source and then weigh up different options and recommend the best solution. Learn more…
Communicating and Influencing – Assessing the candidates ability to get their views across and get people on board with their way of thinking. Learn more…
Changing and Improving – Assessing the candidates ability to identify areas of improvement and assessing their motivation to implement these changes. Learn more…
Working Together – Assessing the candidates ability to work well with others. Learn more…
Developing Self and Others – Assessing the candidates drive for self-improvement via learning new skills and the impact this drive has on others. Learn more…
Managing a Quality Service – Assessing the candidates drive to produce high quality work and meet stakeholders needs. Learn more…
Delivering at Pace – Assessing the candidates ability to produce quality deliverables on time and within budget under limiting circumstances. Learn more…
Leadership – Assessing the candidates ability to lead a team and to motivate others. Learn more…
Where can I learn more about Success Profiles and Behaviours
You can read the Civil Service’s document on Success Profiles here, and their document on Behaviours here.
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